Scientists discuss solutions for volcanic disruptions to aviation

September 12, 2011


August 22 – 25, the Geophysical Institute hosted The Technical Cooperation Program’s Volcanic Ash Working Group Meeting at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Wood Center. Representatives from the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia and a variety of organizations including the U.S. Department of Defense, U.K. Ministry of Defence, Defence Research and Development Canada, U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA, Federal Aviation Administration, major airline companies and more were in attendance to discuss volcanic ash and how it impacts air travel and aircraft. Members of these groups have agreed to streamline how scientists can assist the aviation industry and keep thousands of passengers safe as they fly over Alaska and the rest of the world. 


Alaska is a busy thoroughfare for many aircraft headed to the Far East.  Because there are a large number of active volcanoes along these flight paths, GI scientists and the Alaska Volcano Observatory are committed to work with state and federal agencies like the USGS and FAA to provide timely warnings of impending eruptions and the danger that may be present for aircraft flying through the region. In addition to two days worth of presentations, tours of AVO and the Poker Flat Research Range and brainstorming sessions to identify priorities for future activities designed to protect aircraft from volcanic ash occurred during the meeting.  The working group meeting emphasized creating collaborations between organizations.


The concept for the meeting came out of TTCP’s Aerospace Group’s concern that volcanic ash impacts the militaries of all TTCP members (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).  The U.S. TTCP Aerospace Group knew of UAF’s volcanic ash expertise and encouraged the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, which is affiliated with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command based at the Redstone Arsenal post in Alabama, to support the meeting at UAF. 


Many GI researchers presented during the conference and contributed to the organization of the affair, including Cathy Cahill, Jon Dehn, Steve McNutt, Greg Walker and Peter Webley.